There are about 100 cockroach farmers in China riding the wave of rapid expansion as prices have soared from $2 to $20 a pound.
Wang Fuming, who has the largest cockroach farm in China, said he got into the business three years ago because it’s more profitable than raising pigs.
He now owns six farms with about 10 million cockroaches.
Buyers use them for medicine, cosmetics and high-protein food.
The favored breed for this purpose is the Periplaneta americana, or American cockroach, a reddish-brown insect that grows to about 1.6 inches long and, when mature, can fly, as opposed to the smaller, darker, wingless German cockroach, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Food-industry watchers predict that insects will become more popular in diets as the world population increases from seven billion now to nine billion in less than 40 years.
"We try to keep a low profile," said Liu Yusheng, head of the Shandong Insect Industry Assn., the closest thing there is to a trade organization in China.
"The government is tacitly allowing us to do what we do, but if there is too much attention, or if cockroach farms are going into residential areas, there could be trouble," he told the Los Angeles Times.
Liu worries about the rapid growth of an industry with too many inexperienced players and too little oversight.
In 2007, a million Chinese lost $1.2 billion when a firm promoting ant farming turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and went bankrupt.
That makes Pigeon King look like a piker.
"This is not like raising regular farm animals or vegetables where the Agricultural Ministry knows who is supposed to regulate it. Nobody knows who is in charge here," he said.